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tv   Washington This Week  CSPAN  June 27, 2015 10:49pm-1:01am EDT

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it is very critical in that respect. jerrold green: i agree with that. i just never know who needs who more. >> i would say they need iran more than iran needs hezbollah. >> how about russia? russian media portrays iran as a friend were ally -- or ally. how about iranians? have a they feel about russia? do they take russia seriously? jerrold green: everybody sort of takes russia seriously. there are long historical relations between iran and russia. the shah's father was a member of the classic -- cossack military brigade. i think russia is desperately looking for a role in the middle east. the iranians are cynical. they get it. russia might be a useful counterpoint to the u.s. and those forces marshaled against
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it but russia is not eager for iran to develop a nuclear weapons capability. russia is concerned about islamic-based political activity, primarily in chechnya but also along the southern border through central asia. they will tolerate certain iranian behavior, but probably not too much. iranians i don't think have great expectations of russia, nor should they. >> i would add to that and also ask you to comment as far as iran is concerned, in a sense russia is a rival on the oil and gas export front. far more critical to the iranians is the budding relationship with china. china is becoming very aggressive in its purchase of natural resources and in establishing channels for the future.
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india also derives a lot of its oil imports from iran. that has been seriously affected by the sanctions. it is tired of them and finding ways of getting around the sanctions. in a sense, we should not think iran is isolated in a box that comes to the sanctions. there is a rising number of emerging major powers that find it in their interest to work with iran and get around the sanctions. that is also part of the picture. jerrold green: absolutely right. i agree. >> anymore questions? yes, please. >> [indiscernible] >> the question has to do with whether there are other intermediaries which could work
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with iran other than the united states. germany might be a candidate. jerrold green: for talks in geneva is not bilateral u.s.-iran. the e.u. is involved in a number of other powers. i think at the end of the day we don't need mediators. we need mediatees. the countries need to decide to make a deal. once they do, it will happen or it won't happen. the iranian foreign minister got his phd at the university of denver which is where condoleezza rice got her phd. you know, it is simply the ability of these countries to agree. what paul mentioned and others in your questions are all of these other collateral issues which feels bilateral but really is global because there are all
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of these activities elsewhere which impinge on our ability to make a deal, and selling our own people's, iranians there's and hours. >> in his weekly address president obama reacts to the supreme court ruling on health care. senator john boozman has the republican response. he talks about defense spending. president obama: five years ago we finally declared that in america, health care is not a privilege for a few, but a right for all. and this week, after more than 50 votes in congress to repeal or weaken this law; after a presidential election based in part on preserving or repealing this law; after multiple challenges to this law before the supreme court, we can now say this for certain: the affordable care act still stands, it is working, and it is here to stay. on thursday, when the court upheld a critical part of the affordable care act, it was a victory for hardworking americans all across this
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country whose lives are more secure because of this law. this law means that if you're a parent, you can keep your kids on your plan until they turn 26. if you're a senior, or an american with a disability, this law gives you discounts on your prescriptions. you can't be charged more just because you're a woman. and you can't be discriminated against just for having a pre-existing condition. this law is working exactly as it's supposed to -- and in some ways, better than we expected it to. so far more than 16 million , uninsured americans have gained coverage. nearly one in three americans who was uninsured a few years ago is insured today. the uninsured rate in america is the lowest since we began to keep such records. the law has helped to hold the growth of health care to the lowest in 50 years. if your family gets insurance
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through the workplace, not through the affordable care act, you're paying about $1,800 less per year on average than you would be if trends before this law had continued. that is good for workers and it's good for the economy. the point is, this is not some abstract political debate. for all the misinformation campaigns and doomsday predictions, for all the talk of death panels and job destruction, for all the repeal attempts -- this law is helping tens of millions of americans. this isn't just about obamacare. this is health care in america. with this case behind us, we're going to keep working to make health care in america even better and more affordable, and to get more people covered. but it is time to stop refighting battles that have been settled again and again. it's time to move on. because as americans, we don't go backwards, we move forwards. we take care of each other. we root for one another's success. we strive to do better, to be better, than the generation before us, and we try to build
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something better for the generation coming behind us. with this behind us, let's come together and keep building something better right now. thanks, and have a great weekend. senator boozman: hi. i'm senator john boozman from arkansas. in an era where we face growing challenges from china and russia as well as the persistent threat of terrorism, republicans and democrats alike say they want the united states to maintain its military dominance. however, those words must be matched with action. we must take the necessary steps to protect our country from the evolving dangers facing our nation and its citizens and continue offering security to those people who face tyranny and oppression around the world. the threats and challenges of the 21st century require a military that is manned and equipped with the newest technology, equipment, and training. accomplishing this requires that we provide the department of
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defense the resources necessary to make these updates. this is a priority for senate republicans. that's why we are fulfilling the promise to make the senate work for the american people and return to regular order. as a member of the senate appropriations committee, my colleagues and i are prioritizing how we spend taxpayer dollars. this is a basic responsibility of congress that for too long was ignored by the democrat-controlled senate. there should be no question that ensuring our service members have the training and equipment they need to fulfill their missions is a worthwhile use of taxpayer dollars. the role of the federal government is to defend our country and we must take appropriate steps to maintain the readiness of our troops. this is reflected in the work we've done in the appropriations committee, where the defense appropriations bill passed with overwhelming bipartisan support. unfortunately, senate democrats are working to stop funding
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these priorities that will keep the men and women of our military safe, protect our nation against security threats, and help us fight violence around the world. this strategy to avoid senate debate of the defense appropriations bill risks serious damage to our national and global security. blocking this bill reduces readiness by depriving service members of the supplies they need to effectively carry out their missions. it deprives the department of defense the budget certainty and ability to plan that comes when congress passes this legislation in a timely manner. unfortunately, the last time this was accomplished was in 2006. we must remember that our enemies around the world view this political gridlock as a sign of weakness. this perception invites our enemies to create chaos and engage in aggressive destabilizing behavior. look no further than russia's
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actions in eastern ukraine as a prime example. arkansas is a proud contributor to our nation's defense. more than 15,000 arkansans selflessly and proudly serve our country. it's home to facilities that help produce ammunition, explosives, artillery shells rockets, and missiles that are all vital to combat operations our service members rely on during their missions. the protection of our troops and the safety and security of our nation is not a game, but democrats are willing to play politics with our military to get more money for the agencies that have abused their power like the environmental protection agency and the i.r.s. there will be plenty of time to debate our domestic spending priorities. now is not that time. our servicemen and women are the reason we live in the greatest freest nation the world has ever known.
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they are beacons of light for people around the world looking for hope from oppressive and abusive regimes. to offer our thanks and appreciation we must pass the defense appropriations bill to ensure our servicemembers have every tool they need to carry out their mission and return home to their families safely. as we approach independence day let's remember the valuable role of our men and women in uniform and keep them in our thoughts and prayers. happy independence day, and may god bless america. >> tonight on c-span, a special issues spotlight program on iran. with a june 30 deadline for nuclear negotiations approaching, we will show you events from the archives focusing on iran's government, culture, history, and relationship with the u.s. we begin with a look at the 1953 iran orchestrated by the ca -- c.i.a.
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and then remarks by the iranian born author followed by a panel taking a critical look at iran's human rights record. our file program features jerrold green explaining the complexities of the iranian government and culture. >> the first part of our issues spotlight program on iran looks at the u.s.-backed coup in the country which occurred in 1953. it led to the imprisonment of iran's democratically elected prime minister. he was succeeded by the shah the world country until the 1979 islamic revolution. in his book, "all the shah's men"," stephen kinzer explores the origins of the coup and its impact on the u.s.-iran relationship today. this event took place in illinois in 2003.
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[applause] [applause] it's great to be here in oak park. not just being here in the library. we actually did do a good deal of research for this book. but also being in the hometown of earnest hemingway for a writer cannot fail to stir some emotion. i actually live only about two blocks from the home in which ernest hemingway where he was in high school and did his first writing. i'm hoping that some of the karma will blow over towards my side of the block. the readers have to be the judge whether or not any of that succeeded. i doubt that hemingway found a story that was as exciting as the one that i uncovered and tried to put together while writing this book. it was just 50 years ago in august of 1953 that the c.i.a.
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overthrew a government for the first time. that was the democratically elected government of muhammad mozadek. the prime minister of iran. now that episode was hardly noticed in the world press and certainly the involvement of the united states the truth of what really happened was completely unknown at that time. at the time this coup was launched it seemed like a success in the united states. we had gotten rid of someone we didn't like and put in someone we did like for 25 years the period that the shah was in power, we could still from the perspective of the u.s. government consider this to be a success. it's only now looking back on it from the perspective of 50 years of history that we can begin to understand what fundamental turning point this 1953 coup was. this was an episode that really
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shaped the whole second half of the 20th century. and had a great influence on the violent currents that are racing through the world today. it would not have been possible to realize this even a few years ago. it's only now that we're able to understand the meaning of this episode and for that reason it teaches us a real object lesson in the long-term consequences of foreign intervention. this isn't just a story about foreign policy. this is a wild spy story in which a real-life james bond set out almost single handedly to overthrow the government of a foreign country. the cast of characters is truly amazing. and one of the things that i had the most fun doing in writing this book was piecing together all the different accounts and the different interviews and the different mentions and various books and articles that had been made of this episode and try to
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reconstruct almost on an hour by hour basis what happened during those days and nights in august of 1953. i had always asked myself how one actually does go about overthrowing a government. if you have the sign. to go into a foreign country and overly to the government? what do you do? what do you do on the first day? then what do you do on the second day? now i know. in fact, i'm available for consulting. [laughter] let me talk first about why this coup took place. then i want to talk a little bit about how it happened. and finally a look back on it from the perspective of today. a long the way i want to try to introduce to you to some of these larger than life characters who populate this fascinating drama. in the years after world war ii
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in the late 40's and early 50's. --, the currents of anti-colonialism were sweeping through africa and asia and latin america. and now in iran nationalism had one meaning. independent meant the desire of iranians to retake control over their own oil resources. iran sits on one of the greatest seas of petroleum in the world. it was very early in the 20th century that a small group of visionary british politicians led by the young winston churchill who was at that time first lord of the admirality realized that oil was going to be the key to domination in the 20th century. winston churchill saw world war i on the horizon. he knew that he was going to have to transform his ships from
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coal fired to oil fire. he knew that the country that controlled oil would have the decisive advantage in the coming war and that it would also have the ability to dominate the world after the war. but britain does not produce any oil nor did britain have nicole nis that produced -- any colonys that produced oil. this led officials to concentrate great attention on this problem. it was in iran that they managed to seize control of a huge newly discovered oil resource. the british did this by bribing the three iranian negotiators at the table. they signed a fantasticically lucrative agreement which gave them 100% monopoly on all of the production extraction refining and sale of iranian oil. in exchange for this they were
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to pay iran 16% of the profit. these profits were calculated after the company had paid a huge tax to the british government and since the company was owned principally by the british government this was essentially paying taxes to the company itself. so even when the iranians asked to see the books as to how the 16% of what was remaining calculated they were not allowed to do that. so naturally during the period of the late 40's and early 50's as iranians became more and more aware of this injustice of this arrangement, seeing the british at the peak of world power while iranians lived in some of the worst conditions in the world their resentment continued to grow. winston churchill knew exactly what he was getting when he signed this very unequal agreement. he called iranian oil a prize
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from fairy land beyond our wildest dream. it was that oil that maintained britain at a high standard of living all during the 1930's, and 1940's. iran started to change with bitterness. it was this bitterness that propeled to power muhammad mosad ek. he shook the world in the middle of the 20th century. in 1951 "time" magazine chose him as the man of the year. they chose him over winston churchill, harry truman, and dwritheines hour -- dwight eisenhower. and they were correct because he had a greater influence than any of the other men. he rose to power at a time when he was advanced in aged.
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he had been educated in europe. he was the first iranian to have a doctor of law at a european university. he came from a royal family. he was known as highly incorruptible. he never accepted a salary from the government. his political platform had two planks. one was democracy which meant in iran that the shah should rule as a figurehead national symbol while political power would be exercised by the elected parliament and prime minister. the second plank was nationalism . and that meant nationalism the angelo iranian oil company which had been for years making valuable profit by sucking out iran's most valuable resource. on the day that he was elected before accepting the honor, he made a condition that the parliament should vote for the bill that he had prepared
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nationalizing the british oil company. the parliament did so unanimously. he rode on to power on a huge wave of popularity. it was based on the consensus that he would be the one who would carry out this transcendent act of nationalizing the british oil company. now besides being a visionary nationalist most of that was a highly unusual personality. he was extremely emotional. he would break down into tears literally on the floor of the parliament while giving speeches about the suffering of iranians. sometimes he would even fake dead away from the strain. on occasion he was known to wink at the doctor from the floor. he had a great sense of political theater. and although he had many physical ailments, all during the period i was writing this book, i was never really able to tell where the physical ailments
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ended and where the psycho somatic ones began. he used to receive diplomats in his pajamas. these were used in the west to ridicule mosadek and immediate him seem like an unserious person. but actually in iran y shiite practices have sent people on public displays of emotion, this only happened to endear him even more. he seemed to suffer with them even as he was chastising them. mosadek offered the british the chance to carry out the nationalization of the oil company according to british law. if you can remember in the late 1940's and 1950's the british were nationalizing their own
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industry. they were nationalizing the coal and the railway industry. they had a very elaborate system to develop who has to compensate who. so let's just put it in front of what is your tribunal and we'll decide who owes who money. the man of the oil company was abstinent. the friends of the oil company in iran had by urging the oil company to avert this crisis and compromise. the american con sorshume -- consortium reached a deal with saudi arabia and they gave saudi arabia a 50-50 split. this was an agreement that had the air of fairness that a common person could understand. and many of the pro-british people who iran heard -- angelo iranians to make this concession. the chairman of the company
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flatly refused. and simply said when they need more money they will come crawling to us on their belly. now, how did the british react to the unanimous vote of the iranian parliament, carrying out the nationalization of their oil company. this oil company bare in mind was the largest british commercial enterprise in the whole world. it's principle asset, the refinery was the largest one in the world. this was not -- outpost of the british empire. this was an operation that was central to british political, social and military power. the first british reaction was disbelief. they thought mosadek was just trying to blackmail them for a few million. that became not true.
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it became quickly clear. when it was clear, they decided that -- as they had been conditioned to do. they would simply invade iran. i actually discovered two invasion plans. one plan to take over all of iran and a more limited one just to take over the oil field and the refinery at abadan. when harry truman heard about this he went nuts. he told the british this is absolutely out of the question. the americans could never tolerate britain landing troops in iran. then the british decided they would bring the matter to the security council. americans warned them not to do this. if your case comes forward and the iranian case comes forward you're not going to look good in this. but they're dismiss ogt. they believe that they had been
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robbed of an oil company and everyone would understand this. well, back in tehran, mosadek love the idea of the whole thing take on the the u.n. he decided he personally would fly to new york and present the iranian case. when he got to new york he called a media sensation. it was sort of an ex-centric figure. while headed with enormous arms, a very big nose. one of his american translators says he makes jimmy duranti look like an amputee. he gave a lot of speeches on american tv comparing the nationalization of the oil company to the american revolution. he seemed very much like you're very endearing mildly ex-centric uncle. he made a huge impression at the security council. bear in mind that this was more or less the first time that the
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voice of a poor country has been raised in such a setting. >> challenging the rule of law in the world. he made such an impression that the security council refused to accept the resolution. it was the first debate in the history of the u.n. after the triumph mosadek was invited by president truman to gom to washington to negotiate and consider the compromises. the scene arriving at the train station in washington is a wonderful example of the way mosadek carried himself. he seemed completely unable to move or even speak. so it was as he was carried off
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at the train on union station. he was leaning heavily as a train. and hi son who was a doctor. essential lip carrying him on his left side. gingerly he was able to raise his head a bit. and he looked down on the plat fomplet an official delegation had come to me. and who was at the owned of the -- the end of the day it was the president of the united states. he was so thrilled to see him. he pushed his son aside. threw his cane on to the railroad tracks. marl lee embraced me. [laughter] during this day in washington no compromise is able to be reached. the british after their defeat
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of the united states have resolved that the last resort was to stage a coup and overthrow mosadek. they othered them to begin to make a coup. and most of the deck caught wind of this. he heard of what was going on. and he did the only thing he could have done. to protect himself. he closed the british industry and he sent all the british democrats home. among them were all of the secret agents who were planning to -- >> they had no diplomatic tools left. even the world tool had thrown out their case. they had no agents on the ground to stage a coup. the only thing left to them was to afeel america. and prime minister then 77 years old and starting to fade but still a read product of the immaterial -- long time lover of clandestine operation.
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appeared directry to president truman. truman resisted all of churchhill's pressure. help eventually told him, the c.i.a. has never yor thrown a government before. we don't want to get into this. we don't understand. we're not going to interview in his political development withoutinessing it. scombr in one of this diary interests he was afraid american gus tapo to dwhribe he fears the c.i.a. could finish. they had no tools to go get it out back. and the americans wouldn't help them. the story might have ebbed there had it not been for the election of 1952 in that election, was elected. and brought with me a team that
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has during the campaign denounced the incumbent truman administration. communism an other secret d threats abroad. news electrified the plilt foreign office and the british secret service. they were so excited. they that couldn't gevene even wait for august making their appeal again. two weeks after the election, the british sent one of their top agents, actually a guy who hat been the chief of the -- in tehran before most of that closed. >> his job was is to present the new plan with the houp and see if they can suggest them that the truman administration has rejected. >> no, the agent who is came to make this abiel later i wrote. and in this memoir he mentions
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this police. and this is what he writes as i paraphrase it. i knew that our traditional argument would not move america. our traditional government, is please don't overthrow him before we can have our company back. this would not have a move. i knew i needed a different argets. and i know what argument he used. most of the deck is a possibility of a communist takeover. that's the one that this agent used. the dulles brother secretary of state and his brother allen but the inwoman canning c.i.a. director jumped at that argument . before even allowing that british agent to go home.
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more than two months before the inauguration they've given him an informal time that the united states would not change its policies. president and all the other members of administration who had a voice in these matters. agree. in planning but alone on the ground in iran. now as i said earl yes i reinstructed in great deal deal everything that happens in iran. i don't want to go through all the details now. the c.i.a. has one of the most prepid agent. to sneak into iran in late july 1953 -- and began organizing the
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koup. >> first of all, he would be bribing columnists an rorpter who is write all sorts of dough familiar mary: lines about most of the top on the history. members of parliament and leaders of political party that were part of his edition so they would quit the dem police. he began bribing mullet so that at friday prayers in the month people would hear that because he's being eants religious against the islamic state. very they began bribing mid ranking military officers. so they would be ready for their unit to join the yg. one of the most brilliant ideas that he has -- so upheaval on streets of tehran. we got into the mobs are us
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business. he was able to recruit several street gang laiders. inl in tehran. -- in tehran. he ran a protection in the vegetable market. looking to win a few extra bucks or reals at the time. he said i'd like you to get several hundred men and i want them to rampage through the treats of tehran. i want you to smash windows, fire they're guns and mine. and shout we love -- long live people's republic of iran. . then in the further inspiration rosa hired another mom to attack this mom thereby giving the
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expressions the treats were in case out. they lost complete control of their situation. during this time he was sneaking into the palace at midnight. concealed aren't and secure his participation in the coup. the shah at that time was a very meek and cowardly. was terrified anything that might endanger him. given the power of the u.s. and britain he really had no choice in the end. >> i had to use -- had to use a lot of pressure. none of them was general swars cop of. general swars cough has been a very flamboyant figure when the shah was a great young man.
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their meeting was amazing, the state department had given him a mission of visiting installations in the region so that his visit to iran wouldn't yrouse suspicion. he immediately figured out what was up and printed a story denouncing i. he waited to meet with the shah in the palace but the shaw was terrified of microphones that he wouldn't say a word and he jus -- guess chured. he pulled away from the wall at the palace. he pulled it out in the mid to feel room presumably furthest possible away from microphones. he climbed up on the chair. he gestured to general swars koch who sat down at that table.
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through these and a series of other pressures the shaw was finally brought onboard and his job was to sign a degree -- decree signing him into office. only the particlement has the right to hire an fire the prime minister. the order to the officer who was to order this decree was when he resist you arrest him. and we proclaim our own guy as the prime minister. the c.i.a. had chosen the iranian officer as the designated savior of iran. what happened on the night of august 15th, 1953 the officer who had been chosen to deliver this decree came to mosadek's door and out of the shadows came
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other soldiers and they betrayed him. the officer who was supposed to arrest him was himself arrested. so now the coup had failed. the shah had signed this on the condition that he could leave tehran immediately. he wanted to be near an airport. he was a pilot himself. sure enough at 6:00 a.m. the next morning when he heard that he was still in power he ran across the tarmac into his private plan with a little veliz, flew to baghdad and later on to rome where he was looking for work where he wasn't able to look for work any time soon. back in tehran mosadek and the people around him assumed that the shah had been behind this coup. now the sha was gone. so as far as they knew the danger was over.
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mosadek didn't have an idea that these people existed and they were working intensely to overthrow him. i honestly think if he came back and a chance to read my book he would be shocked. he had no idea how involved that resulted in his overthrow. the c.i.a. in washington sent an urgent cable to kermit roosevelt telling him you better get out of there in a big hurry before they find out who you are and kill you. but they were not in moment to moment communication with langley or anywhere else.
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and kermit roosevelt, now having to ditch the plan that taken british and american spymaster's weeks to draw up, give up with another plan of his own. after four more days of rioting and enunciations, he struck again. on august 19 1953, a fateful day that every iranian those my heart. the streets of iroan were full of protesters, many paid by roosevelt. many joining in without realizing what was going on. there were gunbattles, as military units have been bribed. government buildings were attacked. the climactic battle happened at night, in front of his house.
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wonder people were killed in the battle alone. by midnight, his house was in flames. he has led, and the two had succeeded. a couple of days later, just before leaving ironic, he stopped in to meet the shop for one last time. this time, he was able to come sitting up wearing the suit instead of wearing a blanket. and the shah said this, having come back from rome, where he was sitting in a restaurant when he learned of the success of the second coup. i own my throne to god, by people, my army, and you. which was exactly right. although i think he may have reversed the order. now, kermit roosevelt came back to washington to great acclaim.
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he gave a briefing at the white house. president eisenhower later denied in his memoir that this meeting ever took place. but he did take the metal. roosevelt later wrote about the session in the white house. he said one member of my audience, secretary of state john foster dulles, had a wide grin on his face. he was purring like a giant cat. my instinct told me he was planning. sure enough, a few weeks later he was called into his boss' office, you did such a great job, we decided we don't like that kind on guatemala. couldn't you go down there and do it again? well, another group was found and less than a year after the
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elected government of iran was overthrown, the elected government of one of mullah was overthrown -- elected government of guatemala was overthrown. it left over 30 years. this sets the united states out in the direction of covert action and regime change. it was not inevitable that the cia would become an agency that was involved in overthrowing government and destabilizing countries. in fact, it became so only after the established policy set by president truman was reversed by the eisenhower administration. so much of history stemmed from those few weeks in tehran. let me talk a bit about what i mean. as i said earlier, that coup could have been a consi
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dered success. the shah was in power and serve as a faithful ally of the united states. but let's look at it from the perspective of today. the shah's repressive regime shut off all political alternatives for anybody who was against dictatorship. the only place that had a principled opposition, and that was rooted in the masses, was the fundamentalist branch of islam. fundamentalism began to attract people disillusioned with the possibility of change. the shah's repressive regime led to the explosion of the 1970s that we call the islamic revolution. it brought to power a group of fanatic anti-american clerics who proceeded to launch a campaign of terror against
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american and other western targets. that regime also inspired fundamentalists in many other countries, including next-door afghanistan. where the taliban came to power and gave sanctuary to osama bin laden and al qaeda. this is why you can say it is not far-fetched to draw a line from the 1953 coup in iran, through the dictatorship, through the islamic revolution, to al qaeda and the fireballs that engulfed the world trade center in new york. the world has paid a terrible price for the lack of democracy in the middle east. why is there such a lack of democracy there? when the united states -- there are many reasons, of course. i was studying history in college, i was warned not to draw cause-and-effect relationships. i hope my teacher is not in the
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room. [applause] we sent a message in 1953 that resounded through the middle east. the message was that the united states, which is the rising power to replace the fading british in this region, does not want to see the emergence of democratic government. we want strongman rule. and that is what we got. a whole generation of leaders understood that they wanted to spend regimes to be supported it could not go the democratic direction. they need to go the direction of iran -- guarantee support for the cold war conflict. and also access for american companies to access the oil, their most important product. from that one episode a deep-seated anti-american sense
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grew and spread the middle east. >> executive press is saying that iraq is setting limits. secretary of state john kerry and iran's minister met in a hotel, and will be several negotiations ahead of a tuesday deadline. the iranian minister said the sanctions must end immediately once a deal is reached. all other penalties must be removed. the u.s. and the six world powers involved in the talks say that will not happen. you are watching a special issue spotlight program on iran. up next, examining the u.s. and iran relationship. his books include "the ayatollah begs to differ"." this event took place at
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williams college in massachusetts in 2013. [applause] thank you very much. that introduction was lovely. but i have to say, i am neither a professor or an expert on anything of any kind. there are no irony in experts case you were wondering. there is no such thing as expertise on iran. it is way too unpredictable and difficult for anybody to claim they know what iran is, whether they are going to build a bomb whether they're not, whether they're going to go to war, all of that stuff that experts claim to know, they actually don't. and the proof of that is that in 2009, when there was an election in iran, a presidential election in iran, there wasn't a single expert, myself included, as a nonexpert, who predicted what
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was going to happen and the aftermath of that election. so now we've got a whole new election happening in iran. and there's all sorts of new expertise about expert opinion about what's going to happen with the election in iran, how it's going to affect the nuclear program, how it's going to affect relations with the united states and iran. and again, i would argue that no one really knows. and i'll talk a little bit about what we do know about iran. rather than what we think we know. iran is, as i said earlier at a dinner, i have the fortune or misfortune, however you look at it, of being bi-cultural. what i know of iran is through the culture of my parents and my family. and the time i've spent in iran. which isn't as much as i would like it to have been. and my contacts with iranians, all kinds of iranians --
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politicians, dave mentioned that i have met and translated for and even advised iranian presidents. i've had the fortune of being able to look at issues through iranian eyes. my own eyes, which are partly iranian, but also through the eyes of iranians that i've gotten close to. and i think that's actually the primary problem that we have in america with foreign relations that we have a very difficult time looking at issues through the eyes of someone else. through the eyes of another culture. particularly a culture which seems to be in conflict with us. and iran has seemed to be seemed to have been in conflict with us for now over 30 years. question is, is there any way for us as americans, americans who don't have the experience or the bi-cultural background, to be able to understand where iran is coming from or the iranian government's coming from or where the iranian people are coming from? is there a way for us to accommodate what their concerns are and what they want to be in
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this so-called family of nations that exists right now? hopefully at peace with each other. that's a good question. i can't answer that question because i'm bi-cultural. it's very difficult for me to answer that question. i think i know. but i can't look at iran purely through american eyes. what i'm going to do tonight is try to explain a little bit about iran from the perspective of iranians, not from the perspective of an american. when we look at iran i think and it's in the news all the time, the scary country, 80 million people who seem to be religious fanatics which we don't like in america, generally speaking, who are bent on the destruction of israel, one of our closest allies if not our closest ally. who are bent on reducing our
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influence and power in the world and challenging the u.s. in almost every instance where our interests intersect, such as in afghanistan, iraq, syria lebanon, with hamas, with hezbollah. that is what we see of iran. and what we see in the media of iran is also very alarmist. we have a crazy president in iran who talks about there being no homosexuals in iran, to wanting to wipe israel off the map, to talking about the evil of zionism, to talking about how iran is a super power and is going to challenge america and is actually going to be victorious in this battle between east and west. so this is what we get from the media to a large degree what is we see all the time, but it of course as intelligent people we know that can't possibly be the truth. and it isn't.
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it isn't the truth. it is true that president ahmadinejad is a little wacko. it is true that he comes across as very wacko. it is true that his rhetoric sounds to our ears completely insane. it is also true that his rhetoric doesn't sound insane to a large population inside iran and doesn't sound insane to a large population in the developing world, not just iran. it's also true that he doesn't represent the iranian people fully. it's true that the iranians we see on tv sometimes all the way back to the hostage crisis jumping up and down and shouting death to america, scenes of tehran on television of people walking on the american flag, we also know that that, we actually know that, most intelligent people know that doesn't represent 80 million people. but it is also true at the same time that the iranian government is at odds with the u.s. government in many instances. and in many places in the world.
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particularly in the middle east. the question is, why is that? why should we be at odds with iran? what is there about iran or this government in particular, this regime in particular that makes it impossible for us to have figured out how to be on good terms or at least on speaking terms with them over the last 30 years? well, the first answer to that is the hostage crisis. we tried, we had -- sorry, we had an embassy there, they took our hostages, they did something evil that was against international law, so we stopped speaking to them. we cut off diplomatic relations. that was that. now they're our enemy, they're against us, and we will do everything to undermine them. which included supporting saddam hussein when he went to war with iran. supporting him militarily, intelligence-wise, and supporting the countries that supported him financially. that's the easy answer. the more complicated answer is
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that there are grievances on both sides. the main grievance that the united states has starts with the hostage crisis but then goes on to iran's support for act ors we don't approve of such as hezbollah in lebanon and the palestinian resistance in israel. and the occupied territories. the grievance on the iranian side is the side that we tend to miss. and we tend not to talk about. and the grievances on the iranian side go back all the way to world war ii. after world war ii, during world war ii, the allied powers had the shah's father removed from power because he was an axis sympathizer and installed the son. seven or eight years later there was a democratic -- he was a very weak ruler. there was a constitutional monarchy.
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there was a elected prime minister. and the elected prime minister in 1953 was mohammad musadev who was a nationalist who believed in iran's national interests and didn't believe in being allied to either east or west and didn't believe in taking orders from the united states or anyone else. particularly great britain, at that time. at that time, iran's oil, iran's income from its oil, was less than the taxes that bp was paying to the british government for the sale of that oil. so he nationalized the oil industry. and the british and the americans, to make a very long story short, for those of you who know it, the british and american governments decided to remove that democratically elected prime minister and return the shah to power, who had fred iran in fear that he would be arrested. that coup the 1953 coup, is something that every iranian knows about, every
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iranian has known about forever, has been taught in schools since 1979, and every iranian knows that was instigated that coup was instigated by the united states. and great britain. but mainly, it wouldn't have happened without the united states. so, as far as iranians are concerned, and particularly the revolutionaries who took over power in 1979 and who are now in control of the country, for them, the u.s. is a country that took away their democratic aspirations. it's true, it was more than 50 years ago. but it's still a recent memory for many of those people. and that since then, certainly since 1979, has tried to undermine iran's movement toward an independent democratic or somewhat democratic state. so the antagonism goes back to 1953. but it's not just to 1953.
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a lot of people will write books or write articles about how the iranians have a grievance against the united states because of the 1953 coup. it's not just that. since 1979 and the hostage crisis, the iranians feel that the u.s. has tried to undermine iran in many ways. and i'll just point out a few of the more recent things that the iranians will point out and say this shows american bad faith towards iran. the nuclear issue as being a primary one, that the united states is making certain demands of iran that most iranians believe iran has a right to. a right to let's say nuclear enrichment at this point. most iranians believe iran has a right to a nuclear program under the treaty they have signed and that the united states is unreasonable in demanding they stop that. they believe the united states has gone further than just demanding iran stop that.
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and has actually had programs to undermine the regime. regime change programs. in fact, there was at one point i think a $400 million budget to foment revolution in iran under president bush, there was. and i'm not sure where it stands now, the budget for covert and overt activity against the iranian regime. so the iranian people and the iranian regime, and the iranian regime is very good at propaganda and telling its people what's going on in the world, what's going on with america and iran -- the view there is that america cannot abide by iran's independence, by iran wanting to make its own decisions, and being an independent actor in the middle east. and wants to impose its will on iran. once to impose its ideals and ideology on iran, and iran is resisting that.
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and another example for the iranians is the assassination of nuclear scientists which is blamed on israel and the united states. and although the united states claims that it's not involved in the assassination of iranian nuclear scientists, that's not very much -- that's not very well believed in iran by even ordinary iranians who dislike the regime. then you have the stuts net worm, the virus introduced to the program running the nuclear program which caused a lot of damage. the iranian people have two major concerns in life. they have one concern which is economic, which we all have. everybody wants to have a good economic life, have a stable life, have a stable country, a stable economy. and to do well. financially.
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their second concern, secondary concern, is a socio political concern. so they want a government that represents them. those two are their own primary concerns for the iranian people. the iranian government knows those two are the primary concerns. they know the economic concerns. they know it's more important. but for the iranians there's a third concern. something we don't generally have to think about in america. that is what their nation stands for. the iranian people are proud people who've had 2500 years of history. at least they think they've had 2500 years of history as a nation state. and a nation state that was created at a time when there were very few nation states. there were mostly city states at that time. and iran forged together this nation out of different tribes different ethnicities and created this country called iran. by the way it was always called
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, iran by the iranians. it was called persia by the greeks and british. iranian kids who go to school were always taught iranian history. the same way we're taught american history. they were taught about this grand, great empire that did a lot of good things. it was very powerful, that was independent, that was influential where the language was influential across the world. and they've seen the decline. and they blame part of that decline on the weakness of iran. the weakness of its rulers and the strength of the west. and what the 1979 revolution was supposed to do and why it was popular for many iranians was that it claimed that it was going to make iranian another great country that was going to be independent. not necessarily to compete militarily, not necessarily to compete in terms of power on the world stage, but to be competitive as an independent nation state that was not going
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to take orders or dictate from any other country. that was a popular sentiment. and that's still a sentiment that is very much a part of the iranian experience. inside iran and even among iranians outside of iran. even among iranian americans who live here who might despise the regime and what it does in terms of human rights and civil rights. but still believe that iran should be an independent nation, should not be a country that is allied, necessarily, to one country -- to another greater power or not. so for iranians, that third concern is actually quite important. and that's the concern that the regime has been able to play on for the last 30 years. and particularly in the last ten years when it's been about the nuclear issue. this concern that we want to be an independent nation. we don't want to be dictated to by the west. we don't want to be dictated by anybody let alone the west. in
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in the foreign ministry, they carved into the law neither east nor west. it's important to the iranians to not be linked to the communist east or the capitalist west. and that sentiment still plays a very strong role in the iranian culture. so i'm going to move to whether this government or this regime is an act that is possible to do business with for the united states. given the fact that they have as we know post-2009, quite a lot of discontent economically and sociopolitically. the first two concerns that most iranians have. they don't have a lot of discontent when it comes to their stance on independence. and the nuclear issue is what is driving that stance right now. for iranians and why the nuclear issue is still a very popular
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issue. nuclear program is still a popular issue for most iranians inside iran. even the polls, latest polls -- although polls can be quite not accurate in countries like iran where people tend not to answer truthfully because they're afraid their answers might become public. and people generally tend not to want to answer questions by someone anonymously on the phone. but there have been numerous polls done internally and by external polling -- u.s.-based polling companies that have shown that even though the nuclear program has diminished somewhat in its popularity, it's still popular. and the iran stance on the nuclear program is popular by an overwhelming majority inside iran. still an overwhelming majority. and that's what i was talking about that third issue. now we can talk about what this regime is.
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and whether what we -- how we relate to them, whether it's even possible for us to relate to them. talking about ahmadinejad first. ahmadinejad has been blown way out of proportion in the west. by our media. and you can't blame our media. our media likes to look for stuff that's interesting, exciting, sensationalist. a and ahmadinejad, you know, he fits that bill. if he was reasonable, he wouldn't get a lot of air time. he's much more interesting as an unreasonable person. and we like wackos. half the media is kmpbed about him being a little wacko instead of him actually being a threat. in ahmadinejad's case, it was both. this obsession about him being a threat as well as a wacko. but ahmadinejad in iran is not as important as we made him out
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to be here. it was much more convenient for the media to make him out to be the leader of iran. that's the word they have used often. when he is not the leader of iran. iran has a very, very complicated political structure. and it might bore people to death for me to go into it. but i'll go into it briefly. it is somewhat democratic not in the way we imagine in that there is a supreme leader. these terms are for orwellian. there is a supreme leader that is supreme. he is the ultimate authority. the way that it is structured, he is chosen by a body of clerics call the assembly of experts. that is a pretty orwellian term too. they are voted on by the people. every six years.
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but i have yet to come across and i romney and -- an iranian who has voted in that election. so you have to assume that people who go out and vote for the assembly of experts are people who are really regime supporters. and they vote for the relatively conservative ayatollahs. and the assembly is all clerics. it's like the college of cardinals. that assembly of experts has the ability to appoint a supreme leader and during that can monitor his performance and impeach him. so this is where they claim their legitimacy. saying i'm elected through the assembly of experts. then you have the other governmental bodies that are all ultimately answerable to the supreme leader. guardian council, another group of six clerics who are to mediate between -- this is -- sorry.
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between parliament and the exec utive branch. they're elected. there's a legislative branch which is the parliament. then there's the presidency. and if anybody's been following iran in the last few months or last year, you know inside iran there's a huge battle going on between those three branches of government. that said -- so there is a somewhat democratic system in place and the constitution is somewhat democratic. but that said, there is still the supreme leader who has the final say in everything and people defer to him. so the supreme leader was always the person who has been dealing with the nuclear issue. he's always the person who ultimately will make the decision on whether to talk to america, whether to make a deal with america. he's always the person who has
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the military capability. he is the person if iran ever builds a nuclear weapon -- if it were to do that -- he is the person who will have his finger on the button. not someone like ahmadinejad who is the president of iran. or whoever the next president of iran is. in fact, the government system in iran, the president isn't even the commander in chief. the commander in chief is the supreme leader. so he doesn't have control over the military. so even if ahmadinejad really wanted to wipe israel off the map, he wouldn't have the ability to do so. he doesn't have his finger on any button let alone a nuclear button. he doesn't have the ability to make a decision on the nuclear issue. that's handled by the supreme national security council which is answerable only to the supreme leader. and it's he who appoints the
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people to the supreme national security council but in the institution the president is automatically on that council, but he's just one voice of many. so the iranian government is -- seems opaque, seems very complicated. you do have these three branches of government. they're constantly fighting each other quite openly. and the media in iran is actually quite open in being able to criticize one branch of government or another branch. there isn't freedom of press in iran, i'm not suggesting there is. but there's more freedom of press in iran than in other allied countries such as bahrain or even qatar and places like that. there is more freedom for the press to criticize the government. and there are certain red lines that cannot be crossed by the media. but you have a system that seems complicated and i think president obama realized. now, the supreme leader being supreme generally doesn't talk to anybody. and he has not left iran since he became president in 1989.
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since he became supreme leader. sorry. he was president before. one time he was a president. since 1989 he has not left iran. he thinks being the supreme leader, that people have to come to him. and there's actually a book out right now by a couple of ex-u.s. intelligence people who are suggesting that's exactly what obama should do. is actually go to tehran. they titled the book with the "going to tehran." so he doesn't ordinarily meet with people. he doesn't meet with foreign politicians. he does occasionally meet with heads of state from muslim countries or african countries developing countries who com to tehran. he will have a brief meeting with them. but he doesn't negotiate. so it's a very complicated structure. but president obama did send a letter to the supreme leader instead of to ahmadinejad.
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now, as far as the iranians are concerned, this caused -- as far as many iranians are concerned this caused more problems than it solved. president obama recognized ahmadinejad is not the person to discuss things with. so let's send a letter to the guy who's responsible, the supreme leader. ahmadinejad had been the first iranian president since the revolution to congratulate an american president in writing on their election. so ahmadinejad sent a letter to president obama on being elected in 2008. he didn't get a response. he was very offended ahmadinejad was very offended he didn't get a response from president obama. so he started causing problems inside iran in terms of dealing with the administration. he mentioned americans aren't really interested in speaking to us or they're not really
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interested in engaging. it's all nonsense. they just pretend that they want to. they won't even respond to a congratulatory letter i sent them. that became a bit of a problem in the regime in iran. the supreme leader did respond sent a letter back. the reason i know this -- this has never been public. the only reason i know is a friend of mine helped compose that letter. somebody who was in the iranian government at the time. so the problem keeps compounding itself because of this mis -- cultural misunderstanding between the u.s. and iran on both sides. the iranians think the american side isn't genuine. the american side isn't really after engagement but is trying to undermine them all the time. the american side doesn't understand the iranian side,
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doesn't understand the importance of responding to a congratulatory letter. and the u.s. side thinks that iran is impossible because every time we try to do anything, we don't get a response that we want. any time we try to reach out or as president obama says reaching out a hand and it's met with a fist. from the american perspective, we can see that. we can see the iranians aren't reacting well to our outreach. from the iranian side, whether it's the people of iran or whether it's the government, the outreach is actually very weak. it's like, yes, we would like to talk to you guys about your nuclear program and a few other things. afghanistan, syria, iraq. but mainly the nuclear program right now. and right now we would like you to do this. we're telling you we want you to do this. so the iranians say the americans already have what they
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want us to do which is to stop enriching uranium, to not be able to do what every other country is allowed to do so they're picking on us. at the same time, the same time they're doing this they're also saying and while asking you to do this, we are going to leave all options on the table which means potentially we could -- if you don't do what we want you to do, we're going to bomb you. and we're going to force you to do what we want. and before we bomb you, we're going to try a few other things. so we're going to really cripple your economy. we're going to sanction the hell out of you. we're going to do something that will make it impossible for you to sell your oil, impossible for you to feed your people, impossible for you to balance your budgets, and really just squeeze you so much that it becomes painful not just for you but also for your citizens. and we'll keep doing that until you agree to do what we want you to do.
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and all the while at the same time, by the way, if you don't do it we can bomb you. the iranians say, well, you know, that doesn't really work. if you threaten us, then you're not trying to engage us. if you're sanctioning every single thing, our oil, foreign exchange, you're cutting us off from the international banking system. you're trying -- what you're actually trying to do is destroy us. so, what is the engagement? there is no engagement. you're not really talking to us. you're telling us -- you're dictating to us in the same way you've dictated to other countries as a superpower. and the same way you dictated to iraq and the same way you continue to dictate to some of your other allied weaker countries. and that's not acceptable. and for the iranian people, by and large i would say they would agree with this government. no matter how much they dislike
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the government. no matter how much they feel the government's not representative of them in many other ways and no matter how much they feel that the human rights situation -- civil rights situation in iran, the democratic process all of those situations or all those issues are of importance and are not in the situation where the iranian people want them to be. despite that, they are still going to support the nation when it comes to its rights. because once you give up some of your rights because you're told to, once you accept being dictated to, then you really don't have independence anymore. and that is really, really important for the iranian people. it's something i think our politicians have to understand not just with iran but with every country we deal with. we're used to being able to tell other countries what to do. we're used to being able to throw our weight around. it doesn't work anymore. it can only work if we really
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are willing to go to war -- to a perpetual war with all these countries that don't want to listen to us. and i don't think any of us believe that we are capable of that even anymore of going to war with a bunch of other countries. particularly in the middle east. so the sanctions and the threats on iran aren't accomplishing what they are meant to accomplish. sanctions and threats are meant to accomplish two things. one is to change the behavior of the regime. or to force the people to change the behavior of their regime. in other words to squeeze the people so much they get so unhappy with the regime that they rise up and overthrow the regime. and then there's a regime that's more amenable to doing what we want it to do. neither of those things are going to happen in iran. neither of them have happened and neither are going to happen. if anything sanctions have not quite decimated yet, but have hurt the middle class to a point where
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the middle class have virtually no say anymore in civil society in iran. the middle class is getting smaller and weaker and it's the middle class in countries that tend to be the agents of change. the threats are actually causing the iranians to be more intransigent rather than be cooperative in terms of wanting to try to resolve what is the main issue with iran which is the nuclear issue. the iranians today look around them and they say well, north korea actually has nuclear weapons, is testing nuclear weapons. and they're not threatening -- they are under sanction, that's true. they are under sanction by the united states and other countries, but nobody's threatening to go to war with north korea. yet we don't have nuclear weapons and they're threatening to come to war with us. this doesn't make any sense. we could resolve this issue if
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the united states particularly the united states because the other countries that are involved, the view in iran is they are not the influential parties. if the united states was willing to accept iran as an islamic republic, as a country that is an independent country, as a legitimate government that has legitimate interests, that as far as the people are concerned has not happened. we have not yet accepted that the islamic republic is a country that we should be able to treat in exactly the same way we treat any other independent powerful country. this is a demand iran has. the iranian regime -- and i'll talk a little bit about the regime and the presidential elections coming up. and the dissatisfaction with the regime. the regime was based on three things. its legitimacy, the islamic republic was based on three things. religious legitimacy derived
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from shia theology. second one was its support for the poor, a just society where there was going to be more equality, no corruption, people would have an opportunity to better themselves. and the government would take care in a socialist way take care of the poorest and the weakest in society. that was the second legitimate factor for the islamic republic. and the third was this independence issue i talk about. the first two issues have kind of weakened considerably. the religious legitimacy has been weakens particularly since 2009 when many of the ayatollahs were seen to be cruel and not caring about any of the things they talked about in the past and democratic values. but even down to torture and arrests of human rights activists and protesters and
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stuff like that. you lose legitimacy if you do things that are not very religious or at least accepted in the religion. and even islam doesn't accept torture of prisoners for no reason or for any reason actually. so they lost that. they have this one legitimate -- and they lost the legitimacy of being for justice and for being the poor and for being against corruption and for equality for people partly because there's as much corruption now as there was probably in the last years of the shah's regime. if not more. and there's a huge gap in wealth between the haves and the have not. and there's a lot of resentment inside iran even amongst people who support the regime.
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there's a lot of resentment about the fact there's a class of society, people associated with the revolution, people associated with the regime who do well economically and live very well and go around throwing their weight around. when there's people who are suffering. so that legitimacy is gone. wasn't -- it was there at the beginning of the revolution. the beginning of the revolution, anybody who had a mercedes kept it in a garage because they didn't want to seem to be wealthy than anybody else. now you've got bugattis in iran when there's people who can't make their -- can't even feed their families. so that legitimacy is gone. the only legitimacy they have left in iran, really, is this legitimacy of an independent state that's going to fight for the iranian nation's rights. now, for the people of iran, we are always as americans interested in other cultures and what the political systems are and how -- whether the dictatorship is wanted.
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and we have sympathy for people who stand up to dictators and autocrats. as far as the united states foreign policy is concerned, though, the two issues whether iran has a horrible human rights record and is an undemocratic country should not be related to the nuclear issue. they are, as far as i'm concerned, unrelated. if you you try to relate those two issues, you'll never get anywhere with the iranian government. you're not going to be able to bring down the iranian government through rhetoric. you are not going to be able to get the iranian people to rise up against this regime through rhetoric. and by telling the iranian regime that we hate you because of your human rights record, by
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telling the iranians we stand with you against the dictatorship, you're helping the regime. they turn around and say they're not worried about the nuclear issue. what they're really trying to do is overthrow us. what they're really trying to do is overthrow the regime you voted into power 33 years ago. your government, your system of government that you wanted, the americans don't want. that's what they're really concerned about. it's not the nuclear issue. then at that point anybody who disagreed with the government -- if there is a civil society or opposition to iran, anyone who disagrees to the government becomes suspect. oh, you're actually working for the americans. you're actually going the job of the americans because that's what they want. they want a liberal democracy in iran which they can control. and by criticizing us you're actually helping the enemy. so it helps the regime when you do that. so i remind you those things aren't very related.
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even amongst iranians they are not really remitted. if you look at the protest in iran and what people were demanding then, it wasn't an end to the nuclear program. it wasn't relations with the united states. people were not walking down the streets of tehran saying after ahmadinejad was re-elected, they weren't saying we want relations with america. you know, to open a u.s. embassy. we want the americans to come here. no. they were complaining about their own system, their own lack of civil rights, about the rigging of the vote for those who believe the vote had been rigged. it had nothing to do with america or relations with america and nothing to do with the nuclear issue. every single candidate in iran who has ever run for public office, the most reform from the most reformed side, the one who is believe there should be a democracy in iran, to the hard lined all
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supported the nuclear program. the candidate -- leading candidate who lost to ahmadinejad in 2009 who's under house arrest and has been under house arrest for two and a half years now, he still to this day says he supports iran's nuclear program. and in fact, wouldn't give one iota -- compromise one iota with the united states. so the nuclear issue is really separate from the human rights and the civil rights issue in iran. and i suggest always that it is absolutely okay for us as americans, as independent non-ngos, even for the u.s. government to express dismay about human rights abuses. to express moral support for irans who are trying to build a better society in iran. but to make that a primary consideration won't get us anywhere with -- i i like that cell phone ring.
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my cell phone doesn't work. it's not going to get us anywhere with -- in terms of trying to come to some sort of agreement on the nuclear issue with iran. it's not a cell phone. someone is actually practicing. even better. musical accompaniment. [laughter] so i'm not going to be too long because i don't -- i know people actually prefer to ask questions and try to get answers to questions rather than just listen to me go on and on about various things that could bore you to tears. but i think that the main thing i'm trying to get across is that iran is not actually that unique in terms of being a difficult state to work with. it's unique because it's one of the few times in our history if you set aside a few examples like cuba and the cold war countries that
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were allied with the soviet union. that comes out and defies us all the time. we don't like to be defined. we don't like to hear that someone doesn't like something of hours. we think, even know not all of us believe we have a perfect political system in america or that everything is perfect here in ermterms of democracy, we like to think it's as good as it gets. it's pretty close to being the best thing out there. so why wouldn't other people in other countries want the same things we want? why wouldn't they want to have a system that is similar to ours? why wouldn't they want to have the exact same freedoms that we enjoy here? well, it's complicated. because not everybody believes the way -- not everybody comes from the same culture. not everybody
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believes there are certain freedoms that we have today that we didn't have, by the way, 50 years ago that we think are natural freedoms. you should be able to do this. you should be able to say this. you should be able to, you know, date whoever you want. you should be able to be openly homosexual. all those issues. you should be able to marry if you are gay. all those things that have changed in the american society over the last 40, 50 years. those are things that aren't necessarily in the cultures of a lot of other countries yet. i think they will get there. i think things that are moral, things that are good, things that are reasonable will get there. but not every society is willing to be exactly like america. not every society wants their mtv. i think it's good that there are people who do want their mtv in
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iran and there are plenty of people who do. just based on the number of people who have illegal satellite connections and watch mtv. but society as a whole hasn't gotten there where it wants to be exactly like america. that doesn't mean that people -- we shouldn't stand up for women's rights, for example, in iran. doesn't mean we shouldn't decry segregation. we shouldn't decry various aspects of civil rights that are abused. but it also doesn't mean that we should try to impose our way of life and our thinking and our ideology on other people without taking into consideration that there's a culture there that is proud, that needs to evolve in its own way and its own time. and whatever changes come to the government, whatever changes in terms of the political system happened, have to happen internally. they can't happen because we want them to happen. that's just not going to happen with iran. you know, we tried that in iraq. and we were able
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to bring about the change in iraq. but i think in the long-term when we look at it, there are few people who are going to say that for america -- maybe for the iraqi people 50 years from now they'll say thank god the americans removed saddam hussein because we got what we wanted in the end. that may be true. but for america, i don't think america is going to get what it wants out of iraq or has gotten what it wants out of iraq. and certainly not at the cost -- and i don't mean financial, in terms of american interest and the number of dead and wounded we had from the conflict. for america, it's never going to have been worth it. i think when it comes to iran, we have to look at these things i touched upon. but i think we can't obsess about one thing or another and have to really think about whether we as a country want to forget about the hostage crisis,
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have the iranians forget about 1953 and move forward and say, look, we will recognize your grievances, you recognize our grievances. we recognize we will never have complete agreement on everything, but there are areas where we do have agreement where we do think we can come to some sort of agreement. and those are whether it's syria, whether it's lebanon, iraq afghanistan. where we could actually sit down and negotiate with the iranian people. and then once we negotiate and we come to some sort of agreement and the nuclear issue, after that we can then say okay now we have an issue with your human rights record. but at least we've gotten this other issue out of the way and we can con tencentrate on building better ties and helping the iranian democratic movement inside iran that right now we can't help in any way.
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in fact, if we ever try to help them, they are tarred with a brush of being foreign agents. and, you know, a country under threat is always going to feel that it needs to be more -- to be less willing to give in than a country that's not under threat. so, anyway, i'm going to stop talking and start taking questions. and i believe there's -- >> speakers include michael le we look at the prospect of human rights reform under current irony current iranian president. >> let me start with you. what is your sense of what is going on in iran right now?
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particularly, the people think it is wonderful -- the president is a reformer. he is making things much better. 2009 uprising is over and done with. they're satisfied with what is going on. are they supportive of what is the weapons program? what do we know? >> when it comes to the source of our information, we need to remember iran is not like north korea. it is a country where censorship is a play with a press however if you are in iran, you have the opportunity to get information from a variety of media -- in spite of the fact that all those media are censored by the government. particularly, if we look at the smaller circulation magazines and journals, special economic newspapers, iran is just like america. most people do not read economic
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newspapers. the first thing you do is to read economic newspapers to get all the information. but this is something you should do every day, take a look at specialist journals and magazines -- particularly those of the revolutionary guard. they have a weekly publication which expresses the political line of the leadership of the revolution, and you have on the other hand, a newspaper daily that expresses the viewpoints of others. and all the other newspapers are in the middle. there are different sources we can console. it does not reflect the broader public, they give us extremely important insights into the thinking of different elite groups. within the family of the ruling clans of the republic, those of you who are fans of godfather think of the group as the
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corleone -- maneuvering other groups. there is nothing to do with liberalizing, it is nothing to do with democracy, it has absolutely nothing to do with opening up the economy of iran. it a lot to do with taking privileges away from the revolution and back to the first generation of the islamic republic. the clan allowed him. >> david, you might want to discuss in this regard, relatedly, your confrontation with foreign minister is a. >> a few months ago, i attended a lunch with the foreign minister zarif and a few other people and after the lunch, i approached him and asked him if he thought it was ironic that he enjoys hosting on facebook when
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his government bans it and iran to which he replied, ha-ha that's life. [laughter] that is word for word what he said. i said when will one of the most famous political prisoners be free. he said i don't know who that is. i published this in the daily beast. it got picked up from there. thousands of iranians wrote the foreign minister on facebook and after a lot of pressure internally and globally, it was picked up widely by the press, they released the prisoner on furlough for about a week. when the media pressure died down, he was put right back into prison. what was interesting is maybe my 15 or 20 minute debate/confrontation/discussion
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with the u.n. ambassador. when i approached him about the same issues, i asked why the foreign minister guest to both on facebook when it's banned in iran and he turned to his aid and said word for word -- are the facebook and twitter banned in iran? i assured him they were and i listed a bunch of political prisoners and asked when they will be free. he said i don't know who they are. i asked if he heard of other prisoners. he heard of one. the only reason is because her name is constantly in the media. which i thought was instructive. i think he's probably lying about the others. it's a testament to the power of international media to raise these names and make iranian diplomats pay a price. during the lunch, zarif sounded like a cross between mother theresa and gandhi. in his telling, there is no government on the planet more dedicated to peace and freedom
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and democracy and justice and it is sad to read port that he has -- report that he has exceeded in convincing much of the world's governments and much of the world's media -- when i left that lunch, a very renowned journalist turned to me and said, isn't he so wonderful? and there were very few difficult questions. this is the sort of situation which i hope to change. anytime an iranian diplomat steps outside of his office, he should be confronted with a cacophony of the names of all of the political prisoners. i think there is a direct link to how much treasure we put on -- how much pressure we put on this vicious theocratic regime and how much they open. the fact that even in today's age, they let the prisoner out of prison for a week after the international outcry says that the same model that was used for soviet dissidents to pressure the regime to raise the international pressure is still effective.
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i used to work for natan sharansnky. gorbachev was asked why he was released and he said everyone was talking about him. they held placards to ask for his release. there were meetings with soviet negotiators and they bring up the names of the dissidents and then had a real effect on soviet policy. that is one small confrontation but it is one i think we can be part of re-creating over and over so we don't let the regime get away with their absurd narrative that things are getting much better at a time when there are thousands of people in prison like lawyers and christian leaders and so on. >> go ahead, mike. >> this goes back to people
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don't get the importance of what david is talking about. even during the holocaust, european countries found especially the danes were good at this, found that when people wrote letters to concentration camp prisoners, sent them presents, wrote them postcards whatever -- they had a much better survival rate than people who did not get attention. that was because, in part, writing to them and calling them out and naming them and putting their names on lists given to foreign ministers and so forth removes the cloak of anonymity from them. it is much easier for regimes to kill anonymous people than it is to kill people who have real names and real faces and people out there in the world who are calling attention to them.
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this has worked over and over again. >> i want to press all of you on this -- it strikes me that letters to political prisoners would not have saved james foley. at the same time, it also seems that among organizations that are identifiably jihadist whether it's the islamic state or the islamic republic, there are common goals, common themes even if they are different strategies. how do we understand that? should we say the iranian regime is much more moderate than the islamic state? we should recognize they don't cut reporters heads often talk about that as progress? or should we see all of these
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various self-proclaimed jihadist groups as essentially similar even though their strategies are the french -- are different? you might want to start. >> one of the issues is that the iranian government -- what they want to avoid is diplomatic isolation. this is something they fear. what they have been particularly happy about when it comes to negotiations is that they genuinely believe that if they give some tactical concessions in the nuclear issue, nobody would care to talk about human rights in iran. this is a policy they have been pursuing. these are the statements that mr. homeini is making himself in public and it is the threats he is making against the u.s. government saying that if we accept your nuclear terms, do not come after us with the human rights issue. the answer of the obama administration and all civilized
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governments in the world should be, no, there is a connection. how a regime treats its own population at home also relates to the way it would behave and international political settings. this is the connection i think that we really need to make here in the west to threaten them to say sanctions do not only apply if you reach your contractual -- if you breach your contractual obligations. there is something called human rights. lets not forget that the u.s. government and u.s. president have on many occasions may direct addresses to the iranian public. how do you think the iranian public would feel if they are totally abandoned by washington? does washington only care about nuclear issues? it is an important message that washington needs to send to the iranian government and the iranian public. >> i would say the support of dissidents is not just a moral what a strategic issue as well. they say there can be no fees
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-- peace between countries until there is peace inside of countries. how government treats its own people is a direct reflection of how the government will treat its neighbors and it's silly to think the government like iran when it is brutalizing and torturing and jailing dissidents and lawyers and journalists will turn to its historic enemies and treat them with magnanimity. it's a silly contention. i think the way the issue is used in the soviet context was that it was a tool to bring about the end of the soviet union, not merely to contain them but end of the soviet union. so, too, it can be used in the iranian context. when you look at the boldness of some unlike senator jackson who confronted the soviet union and directly linked most favored country status, that drove the soviets crazy. if you read the memoirs of gromyko or anyone else, when carter and reagan would bring up the names of dissidents, they really hated it.
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that is one sign that it's the right approach. i think human rights is a real achilles' heel of the iranian regime. they are dependent upon external actors to some degree. their economy is being hit hard. if we understand this human rights issue not just as the right thing to do morally but that opening up this closed society is critical to the peace and stability of the region, we will begin to utilize it as a tool in the war against theocracy and dictatorship. >> do you want to add to that? >> this is an identity between moral imperatives and strategic imperatives. it is rare that you find such a
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perfect fit of one to the other. the degree to which the myth has been created along the same lines as the myth of gorbachev is a real throwback for me. i remember, back in those days, as one soviet dictator after another emerged, they all have their human aspects. they liked jazz, they liked dixieland music and so there was a kind of human element. rihani is a man of the system. he became of age of it. he has worked in it all of his life. he has always been a loyal
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servant to the system itself and out here he is at the top. people don't talk much about what he is really all about and what he really wants. why? does he take all of these different positions? because the main game being played inside iran right now among the various factions contending among one another is, who will succeed the leader. he is believed to be sick. people think he is sick. no one would be surprised quietly, carefully, if he dropped dead tomorrow. all of these characters they are all maneuvering for the succession. it is what i have called the war
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of succession. he is basically acquiring the sport everywhere which means that each individual faction has greater autonomy, and a greater run of its own enemies. that is why, in part, his government is sending -- is setting records for torture and censorship's. in comparably worse than the previous leader. he is the stereotypical of the angel child, he is objectively by any measure, worse, much worse. this tells us, among other things, that there are these fractures inside. i want to make one point about what we know and what we do not know. the known unknowns. there are a lot of them.
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if you look at the history anticipating internal developments inside the country look at the big uprising of 2009 which was bigger than the uprising that overthrew the shot in 1979. more people on the streets covered larger parts of the country. it is fair to say that no one inside government, saw that coming. no one in a serious position. they were amazed. up until then, conventional wisdom had been that there is no opposition of any standing or significance inside iran. even it -- even if it existed they do not have leaders. there is not going to be insurrection inside iran.
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we knew it was there all along. and then they added, it is irresistible. if you go back and read the press from 2009, june and onward, you will see that the intelligence community and the policy immunity said we do not have to do anything because these people are irresistible. look at the mall. they're going to win. a precursor of assad is going to fall, no assad is going to win and so on. bottom line, we do not know, we do not know in 2009, and we do not know today. we do know that the regime acts as if there was something serious to be afraid of. we can say that.
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this increase in slaughter and mayhem, the increase in censorship, all of that bespeaks a regime which does not think it has control and which is worried. whenever more than three people gather on a street corner in any major street and the country they are either arrested, or be enough. >> i will ask a couple of more questions. michael, you talked about record numbers of executions and incarcerations. i guarantee you that most people do not know that. most people think we are in a. of post reform and moderation. if you simply read the media as i suggested earlier i think you would get that impression. maybe if you come to think tanks you would have a different understanding. does that not suggest -- let me start with ali on this, that the regime is doing very well on public relations, in fact it's winning the public relations war right now and perhaps the media is not doing their job in terms of covering iran?
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>> absolutely. i think it's very clear, if you compare rouhani to his predecessor, mr. ahmadinejad, mr. rouhani is a sophisticated man. he speaks like a lawyer. he's a trained lawyer. mr. ahmadinejad was an engineer but spoke like a truck driver. rouhani is in silk robes. these are some of the findings of this government. mr. ahmadinejad managed to isolate iran diplomatically. they are in reality bringing iran out of diplomatic isolation. so yes they are succeeding and the western media is not paying the attention they should.
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they should to begin with start reading what he has said all over the years. back in 1999, iran, the islamic republic, experienced its most serious political unrest. that was the tehran university unrest which spread to the country. which politician do you think it was who went to the public and supported the revolutionary guard and the police suppression of the students movement? mr. rouhani, who systemically called the iranian students foreign agents. it was he who systemically as chairman of the supreme national security council was banning newspapers and now people are expecting that he of all the people is going to allow freedom of the press? why? why? this is why i believe is david
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-- the mistake of the western press that they do not pay attention. they do not take a look at the history of those individuals. therefore, they have expectations which is totally immature. some younger people in tehran have these kind of expectations. this is why they voted for him. but you cannot blame them. they are young and naive. here in washington people are not so young but naive. this is one of the complaints that i have when it comes to u.s. government view of the rouhani cabinet. david keyes: i think the regime has succeeded in making 98% of the discourse of the nuclear issue, maybe even higher, and convinced the west is how to prevent iran from getting nuke -- nuclear weapons. without nuclear weapons, with purely conventional arms hundreds of millions of people have been killed in the last 150 years. 200,000 people slaughtered in syria, 800,000 in rwanda, tens of millions in world war ii.
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so i think we need to dramatically and unequivocally restore the focus to the human rights question. when his wife was touring the state department one time in the 1980's she would tell a story that there was a huge map on the wall and one of the senior state department officials said with all due respect you don't really expect us to relegate your husband's release to all these important geostrategic challenges. what you don't understand is those issues won't be resolved until my husband is released. and i think we're aware of the information. there are lists of hundreds of thousands of political prisoners but many people don't get the link between internal freedom and external peace. and just real quick about the
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issue of the letters to baghdadie. emboldning dissidents also encourages those movements inside iran. there's nothing more fearful for a dissident than feeling alone and isolated and not cared about by the rest of the world. we can do an enormous amount to increase the strength of disdent movements inside authoritarian countries simply by speaking out and supporting them. this helps gives them the impetus to rise up against those who throw them in prison. i think that's another issue that the west doesn't understand. and i completely agree about missing what has become conventional wisdom of even the arab spring. it's fantastic to look back at the predictions of supposedly smart people in 2009 newsweek said that the best thing for syria was a wise and charismatic leader named assad and in 2010 kerry said he was a partner for peace, prosperity and stability. and in 2011, they said syria was an island of stability. and you look at those talking
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about egypt as a rock of stability in an island of stability and secretary clinton's famous remark on january 25 is our assessment that the egyptian government is stable. all of these were false and just dangerously wrong in no small part i think because they weren't listening and they missed the fact that the amount of double thinkers is always bigger than we think and the amount of true believers is typically lower than we think. clifford may: thing i'll push you on a little bit, and i may have misunderstood. yes greater emphasis in human rights is called for but that shouldn't mean less emphasis on the nuclear issue. if this regime should get nuclear weapons, the amount of repression and carnage we could see under that nuclear umbrella for the remainder of this century would make what's going on now seem very small.
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david keyes: no question it would be a large danger. but i think the unfortunate correlator is that people underestimate the danger of the regime staying in power and supporting terrorism and undermining every single gulf country and funding terrorism as far as the eye can see and brutally repressing 80 million people for decades. that's an absolutely untenable and unforgiveable situation which we can work faster to undo. >> on the next washington journal, ezekiel emanuel discusses a recent supreme court decision to uphold subsidies in the affordable care act, how the aca has been working overall and why reform has become such a divisive political issue. radio and talk talkshow host armstrong williams examines the current state of race relations in the u.s.. gary seymore talks about the iran nuclear program negotiations. we take your calls and join the
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conversation on facebook and twitter. washington journal live at 7:00 a.m. on c-span. the final portion of our issue spotlight features professor and middle east expert gerald green. he explores iranian culture and the origins of u.s. iranian mistrust. this event took place in 2013. >> ok. i want to do a contextual talking about iran what i want to do first of all is scene setting how to begin to the impasse that we are at today. i coincidently was in tehran during the revolution.
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i was there. i didn't participate, but he i witnessed iranian resolution from the beginnings until the return of -- i was there and saw it firsthand. this is 35 years ago. it was a revolution against the shah of iran. he got the vast majority of the people in this country to hate him. to get iran is to agree on anything is not easy. he succeeded at this brilliantly. it is quite unfortunate and sad. he had extraordinary resources available to him. he printed them away -- he frittered them away. trust me.
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he had a remarkable opportunity. he was ill with cancer in having chemotherapy. all sorts of explanations. it is unfortunate. why do iranians not like us? it is kind of an oxymoron. many would say iran is the most pro-american country in the world. what they mean is not the government of iran. they mean the average iranian on the street. i lived in the second largest concentration of iranians in the world outside of iran. i have been there regularly since the revolution. it is amazing given those high- level discord between our two governments. the average person actually likes the united states. they like american culture. they like basketball. all sorts of stories -- stuff. having said that, again, you
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will not love it. i will tell you how iranians think. i dont's subscribed to these use. i will tell you how we look. first of all, it looks like we support dictatorship across the middle east. we supported iraq's attack on iran. it was a dramatic event. our hands on this are not completely clean either. there's a brief period of time where we were trekking off and selling weapons to the iraqis.
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it was a horrible regime up there and evil, if i may use that word. the assad regime in syria. third, the united states favors israel. what iranians believe is that the u.s. favors the jewish states over muslim states. states that are populated primarily by muslims. you may not agree. it may not be too. this is the perception. this is what they believe. after the revolution, they took the israeli embassy and they gave it to the plo. iranians
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believe that we as a country favor the jewish state over the muslim state. therefore, muslim states, we are anti-islamic. there are arguments against that. jerrold green: this is what iranians believe that we do not like muslims. a guy was murdered because someone thought he was a muslim. we are trying to strangle iran economically. we have reasons -- iran is indeed strangled. economic sanctions have worked. the iranians were strangled. they regard as an emotional type of strangling rather than one that resulted in geopolitics. if the u.s. is trying to expel
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it, isolate iran, we are. there is a reason for it. iranians believe that iran is a great nation, an ancient nation with global interest. they deeply resent what they think we are trying to do. this is all they knew. there are things about them that they don't like and so forth. it is certainly not going to change. they have their narrative. we have hours. -- ours. what is ours? they took over our embassy. we have all seen "argo." great movie. i loved it.
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i've seen it twice. despite how inaccurate was, i still liked it. second of all, the iranian support terrorist and extremist groups. they absolutely do. there was an attack on the jewish community center of buenas aires. these were things that iran has done. they denied the holocaust. i was invited, by this jewish middle-class kid, to a meeting in tehran that the holocaust did not happen. the guest of honor was david duke.

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